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Bytes

Since 1993 a byte has been defined as 8 bits, in order to ensure a standardized SI unit for data size. However, many people who work with technology on a regular basis often have no clear idea about the scale of these different units. This series of blogs about data sizes intends to clarify what terms like bytes, gigabytes and  yottabytes actually mean in terms of information storage.

Bytes (8 bits) 

The byte is a unit of digital information that most commonly consists of eight bits. Historically, the byte was the number of bits used to encode a single character of text in a computer, and for this reason it is the smallest addressable unit of memory in many computer architectures.

  • 0.1 bytes: A binary decision
  • 1 byte: A single character
  • 10 bytes: A single word
  • 100 bytes: A telegram OR A punched card

The Kilobyte

Since 1993 a byte has been defined as 8 bits, in order to have a standardised SI unit for data size. However, many people who work with technology on a regular basis often have no clear idea about the scale of these different units. This series of blogs about data sizes intends to clarify what terms like bytes, gigabytes and yottabytes actually mean in terms of information storage.

A kilobyte (KB or Kbyte) is a unit of measurement for computer memory or data storage, used by mathematics and computer science professionals, as well as the general public, when referring to amounts of computer data using the metric system.

Strictly speaking, a kilobyte has 1,024 bytes, but this number is frequently rounded down to 1,000.  The reason for this is that computers can only work with binary code. And they like the number 1024 because its binary code is 10000000000. That’s why there are 1024 Bytes in a KB, and 1024 KB in a MB.

 

Kilobyte (1000 Bytes)

  • 1 Kilobyte: A very short story
  • 2 Kilobytes: A typewritten page
  • 10 Kilobytes: An encyclopaedic page OR A deck of punched cards
  • 50 Kilobytes: A compressed document image page
  • 100 Kilobytes: A low-resolution photograph
  • 200 Kilobytes: A box of punched cards
  • 500 Kilobytes: A very heavy box of punched cards

Strictly speaking, a kilobyte has 1,024 bytes, but this number is frequently rounded down to 1,000.  The reason for this is that computers can only work with binary code. And they like the number 1024 because its binary code is 10000000000. That’s why there are 1024 Bytes in a KB, and 1024 KB in a MB.

Kilobyte (1000 Bytes)

  • 1 Kilobyte: A very short story
  • 2 Kilobytes: A typewritten page
  • 10 Kilobytes: An encyclopaedic page OR A deck of punched cards
  • 50 Kilobytes: A compressed document image page
  • 100 Kilobytes: A low-resolution photograph
  • 200 Kilobytes: A box of punched cards
  • 500 Kilobytes: A very heavy box of punched cards

The Megabyte

Since 1993 a byte has been defined as 8 bits, in order to have a standardised SI unit for data size. However, many people who work with technology on a regular basis often have no clear idea about the scale of these different units. This series of blogs about data sizes intends to clarify what terms like bytes, gigabytes and  yottabytes actually mean in terms of information storage.
Computer storage and memory is often measured in megabytes (MB) and gigabytes(GB).

1 MB is 1,024 kilobytes, or 1,048,576 (1024×1024) bytes, not actually one million bytes, as it is often described. For working purposes, the Megabyte is usually talked about as consisting of 1,000 000 Bytes.

1 Megabyte: A small novel OR A 3.5 inch floppy disk
2 Megabytes: A high resolution photograph
5 Megabytes: The complete works of Shakespeare OR 30 seconds of TV-quality video
10 Megabytes: A minute of high-fidelity sound OR A digital chest X-ray
20 Megabytes: A box of floppy disks
50 Megabytes: A digital mammogram
100 Megabytes: 1 meter of shelved books OR A two-volume encyclopaedia book
200 Megabytes: A reel of 9-track tape OR An IBM 3480 cartridge tape
500 Megabytes: A CD-ROM OR The hard disk of a PC

The Gigabyte

Since 1993 a byte has been defined as 8 bits, in order to have a standardised SI unit for data size. However, many people who work with technology on a regular basis often have no clear idea about the scale of these different units. This series of blogs about data sizes intends to clarify what terms like bytes, gigabytes and  yottabytes actually mean in terms of information storage.

The prefix giga means 109 in the International System of Units (SI). Therefore, one gigabyte is one billion bytes. The unit symbol for the gigabyte is GB.

However, the term Gigabyte is not without controversy, as it is also used in some fields of computer science and information technology to denote 1073741824 (10243 or 230) bytes, particularly for sizes of RAM. This is why you will sometimes see instances where the term GiB, rather than GB is used;  that a gigabyte (GB) is 109 bytes but the term gibibyte (GiB) to denote 230 bytes. An example of this can be seen when a 400 GB drive’s capacity is displayed by Microsoft Windows as 372 GB instead of 372 GiB. In response to litigation over whether the makers of electronic storage devices must conform to Microsoft Windows’ use of a binary definition of “GB” instead of the metric/decimal definition, the U.S. Congress deemed the decimal definition of gigabyte to be the ‘preferred’ one for the purposes of ‘U.S. trade and commerce.

Gigabyte (1 000 000 000 Bytes)

  • 1 Gigabyte: A pickup truck filled with paper OR A symphony in high-fidelity sound OR A movie at TV quality
  • 2 Gigabytes: 20 metres of shelved books OR A stack of 9-track tapes
  • 5 Gigabytes: An 8mm Exabyte tape
  • 10 Gigabytes: Allows you to browse the internet for around 120 hours, to stream 2,000 songs or to watch 20 hours of standard-definition video.
  • 20 Gigabytes: A good collection of the works of Beethoven OR 5 Exabyte tapes OR a VHS tape used for digital data
  • 50 Gigabytes: A floor of books OR Hundreds of 9-track tapes
  • 100 Gigabytes: A floor of academic journals OR A large ID-1 digital tape
  • 200 Gigabytes: 50 Exabyte tapes

The Terabyte

Since 1993 a byte has been defined as 8 bits, in order to have a standardised SI unit for data size. However, many people who work with technology on a regular basis often have no clear idea about the scale of these different units. This series of blogs about data sizes intends to clarify what terms like bytes, gigabytes and yottabytes actually mean in terms of information storage.

It’s interesting to note that the prefix tera is derived from the Greek word for monster.

Terabyte (1 000 000 000 000 Bytes)

1 Terabyte: An automated tape robot OR All the X-ray films in a large technological hospital OR 50000 trees made into paper and printed OR Daily rate of EOS data (1998)
2 Terabytes: An academic research library OR A cabinet full of Exabyte tapes
10 Terabytes: The entire printed collection held by the US Library of Congress
50 Terabytes: The contents of a large Mass Storage System